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Police BlackBerry Scheme Slated For Lack Of Organisation

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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According to the National Audit Office, the government programme “did not provide value for money”

An £80 million  scheme to give the police BlackBerry smartphones has been criticised for poor organisation, which provided some police forces with too many devices and left others short.

Five years ago the Labour government began supplying police forces across the country with mobile handsets, to help save time and cut down on paperwork, but the project has drawn criticism from the National Audit Office (NAO) for lack of organisation.

Savings called into question

The project has given 41,000 mobile devices (mainly BlackBerrys and PDAs)  to police personnel and in 2010, BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) claimed it was saving the police £112 million a year.

The NAO agreed that BlackBerrys did help officers to be out of the station for an extra 18 minutes per shift, on average. However it said the project did not provide value for money, partly because of a lack or organisation. Three police forces ended up with more devices than officers, while the rest didn’t get enough.

Amyas Morse, head of NAO, commented: “There is still the opportunity to achieve value for money, if more forces use the technology to improve the efficiency of their processes and make savings in their back-office activities.”

Since the scheme began, BlackBerry phones have suffered a total eclipse, going from the favoured devices of business people to the gadget used by looters during the London riots last year. RIM later offered to cooperate with the police and the Home Office in tracking these looters, drawing a lot of criticism from the public, and becoming a victim of several hacker attacks as a result.

In the scheme, police are intended to use BlackBerry phones for:

  • Secure and instant access to data applications, including the National Police Computer;
  • Applications that allow officers to carry out administrative duties and reporting on the beat rather than back at the station;
  • Security features, such as the ability to lock or wipe a device immediately over the air if lost or stolen, built into the devices.